Award-winning entrepreneur, filmmaker and producer, Marko Albrecht, credits Triton as the stepping stone to his future success
Marko Albrecht came to Triton College in 1998 as a high school graduate struggling with personal tragedy due to the loss of his mother and close family members. With few options after a challenging high school experience, Marko chose to attend Triton and had an opportunity to pursue his dreams of working toward a degree in media and playing soccer on a nationally-ranked team. Albrecht credits Triton as “a great stepping stone and opportunity that resulted in my current life outcome.” Following his time at Triton, Albrecht attended Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York where he studied on scholarship as an All-American soccer player majoring in media arts all while working on films like Spiderman 3 and at the Bravo television network as assistant to Andy Cohen.
Albrecht has enjoyed varied roles throughout his career including creating a web series featuring world class DJs including DJ AM and Tiesto, among others. Currently, Albrecht is an entrepreneur, producer and investor who formed his own video, social and digital marketing company, Essential Creative, in 2007. He has worked with the likes of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, IBM, Muscle Maker Grill, Minute Maid and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, among others. Albrecht has also completed his first feature documentary titled, SISU: Family, Love and Perseverance from Finland to America, highlighting how his family has conquered tragedy.
Albrecht has been the recipient of numerous Telly Awards for his video work including a short documentary on the 2 Guns movie premiere featuring Mark Wahlberg, Denzel Washington and Bill Paxton. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America New Media Council and the Television Academy Interactive Media Group (Emmys).
Albrecht currently resides in New Jersey with his wife and children.
What have been some obstacles you’ve had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and career goals?
When I was 16 and my brother, Mikko was 13, our mother died suddenly. We were crushed. The next few years were tragic; my uncle and all four grandparents dying. We got in a lot of trouble; fighting and rebelling. I was a student at Whitney Young High School in Chicago. The teachers seemed oblivious to my pain and I failed almost all my classes. My HS grades didn't allow me to play soccer at 4 year schools so I came to Triton, which turned out to be one of best things to happen to me. I was close to complete life failure and knew I needed to conquer my own life and use the pain as motivation to follow my dreams.
My career came about as hard work and some luck. From my early teens I made videos, skits and films with my mom’s VHS camera and with my cousins and friends as actors. In 1998, my cousin Denise bought an internship at Filmworkers Club in Chicago at a charity auction. Her daughter didn't want it, so I jumped at the chance. They kept me on from 19982000. I then had multiple internships in college, at a TV station in East Hampton, a hip hop publishing company in New York and on films. Just after college in 2004, I met a producer named Patrick, a Chicago native in NYC also, on an airplane. He gave me a shot as a production assistant within NBC Universal at TRIO. From there I worked various jobs in TV, cable and films for 34 years. Some jobs were great, some not, but all learning experiences. I always had a dream to start my own company so when I got married and moved to NJ, I started Essential Creative in 2007.
What have been some sources of inspiration both in your career and in your life?
My mother, father, brother, my wife and our twins, all family and friends are my main source of inspiration. I looked up to my entrepreneur restaurateur uncle in Finland and my cousins in Chicago at Kiki's Bistro. I was able to attend hockey camp with NHL legends Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne at a young age. They are still idols of mine. I love reading books; selfhelp, financial, real estate, biographies, anything I can learn and be inspired from. Films, art, design, culture and nature inspire me.
What would you consider your strong suit to be – whether skills or qualities?
Living with SISU. The Finnish mindset SISU means having the courage, strength and perseverance to conquer tragedy and rise above any and all adversity. SISU is the positive force deep within our soul that drives us all to control the outcome of our life.
How has Triton College impacted your life?
Triton made a huge positive impact on my life. I learned a lot at Triton and met lifelong friends. Triton helped shape me from a young punk into an adult on a mission. I was able to stay at home in Chicago during pivotal years of my life, saving money, getting internships and other paying jobs in my field. I was also able to take the same courses as other early college students at a fraction of the cost.
Confidence was one of great things that came to me from my time at Triton. I played on the nationally ranked soccer team, with a great Coach Medjo who believed in me. Triton classes were diverse and the teachers cared, so I excelled academically. I took advantage of Triton’s groups and clubs including the hockey team and started a video club with a friend. I received multiple scholarship offers after Triton and moved to New York in 2000 to attend Long Island University. I’ve been on the east coast ever since, 15 years now.
What advice would you give someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?
Be relentless in your pursuit of your dreams and goals. Make sure you truly love what you choose to do. We spend 30% of our entire life working so there is nothing worse than hating your “job.” If you love what you do, every day will be amazing and life will be better. The world has a way to make things go your way when you’re positive and happy. This is a fact.
If you want to be in a creative field or in TV, film or video you need to bring something to the table that no one else can. Work at it, practice and hone your skills on your own. Sending resumes out does not work in any field. Make calls, meet people. Hustle. Talk to everyone, pass out business cards. Start anywhere, even as an unpaid intern, and then make sure you leave an impact. Make a pitch to a company on why they need you and only you. Then follow up and do not take ‘no’ for an answer.
Build your network with people higher up on the food chain. Find mentors who believe in you and who you admire. If you are going to be an entrepreneur be ready to work harder than anyone you know and find a dedicated, talented team and staff. Never give up on ideas, pitches or opportunities, because the next big project or client could come along at any time. I recently had a sales pitch that was literally a year’s worth of follow ups. But in the end, my company Essential Creative got the bid.
What are your words of wisdom for current Triton students?
Live with SISU. The simple Finnish word has shaped my life and translates to perseverance, grit, courage and the ability to conquer all adversity. SISU is also a lifestyle and mindset that encompasses self-reliance, drive, positivity, giving, love to all and an unrelenting will to never quit.
Dream big. Read. Never stop learning. Visualize your success and future. Be authentic. Believe in yourself.
What are your plans for the future?
My main goal in life is to be a better person every day; to be the best father, husband, son, brother, family man and Christian possible.
I also have a lot of big dreams and a 5, 10 and 20 year plan. Some of my bigger dreams include leaving a lasting legacy behind in film, TV and business, winning an Oscar, empowering innercity and disadvantaged youth, traveling the world.
Essential Creative will continue digital marketing and video production for brands, governments, celebrities and businesses and we aim to have additional studio locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Finland in the next 5 years. Check out www.ESNTL.com.
The most important project I have ever worked on is my feature documentary, SISU. It began as a profile of my late mother, Paivi and my Finnish heritage. Shortly after I started the film my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had months to live. I went to Finland 5 times to film with him and SISU became a profile on my family conquering tragedy. The film has been a long, emotional yet empowering 4 year project and we look forward to releasing it spring 2015. Proceeds are going to multiple nonprofit organizations. Please support us at www.SISUfilm.org. #SISUfilm